I’m Chris Dawson, Cave Diver, scuba diving instructor, mental health advocate and co-founder of Dive Against Depression.
After working various jobs I knew I wanted more challenge in my life, at 18 I joined the army. in my service in the Army I became a combat infantry soldier with the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, serving in Iraq between 2004-2006. After my tours of duty I left the Army in the hopes of dream of becoming a firefighter.
Civilian life had other plans for me.
When you walk out of those barrack gates, you are on your own.
I was excited for my new civilian life, the excitement was soon replaced by spiralling emotions, a result of trying to integrate back into a world that wasn’t the same as when I left to serve my country.
You see, the Army break you down to rebuild you into the fighting solider that they need. When duty is over, there is no civilian training, there is no ‘how to’ guide. The lack of support quickly lead me into a world of violence, drugs, alcohol and criminal activity.
Within one year of leaving the Army, I had acquired a criminal record narrowly avoiding prison, been diagnosed with the core symptoms of PTSD by one of UK’s leading psychiatrists and was just trying to cope by misusing drugs and alcohol.
I was just trying to keep my head above water, trying to live a normal life.
I decided to re-enlist in the Army, the only place I felt like i really belonged.
I started training two - three times a day to get myself back into peak condition. I now had a goal to strive for, one that I couldn’t achieve by continuing my self destructive coping strategies. I finally was awarded my re-enlist date, this time into the Parachute Regiment with the intentions to go all the way to SAS selection.
One week before I was set to leave, I received the news that I was refused on my mental health record.
Devastated by the news, I felt as though my way out was gone. Pretty soon I found myself unable to function, finances were dwindling away, as were my friendships and relationships. I ended up having to sell my house and go live with my sister sleeping on an airbed.
As if it was fate I returned to exercise, riding to work 16kms away each day just trying to regain some sort of normality and stability in my life as I worked out my next steps. I knew I had to find my way out of this mess and get back on top.
I had never been a quitter when things got tough, I may have been in the gutter, but I was still looking up at the stars.
My fighting spirit saw me find my way to the Non Destructive Testing in the Oil & Gas Industry. It gave me the opportunity to travel the world and I slowly got my life back. I finally had the chance and the resources to start LIVING life fully. First America, then South East Asia, then off to AUSTRALIA where I found my passion and love for Scuba Diving.
Things have never come without their challenges, my journey scuba diving was no different. Without challenge there is no growth, and I have had both in spades.
After a terrifying experience diving the HMAS Brisbane I almost gave up on diving. I was lucky enough to have a moment of connection upon surfacing from the dive, with the skipper of the boat who showed me such empathy, kindness and compassion. It gave me hope that my next dive could be better, it was and I went on to reach the level of Rescue Diver, Deep Diver, Drysuit Diver, & completed my 100th dive at Sydney’s Northern beaches with what became my second home, Scubamonkeys Dive Shop.
Diving became my reason why. It gave me motivation, challenges, friends, and a pursuit of excellence. I wanted to become one of the best, or at least the very best I could become. Cave diving was what I saw as the ultimate skill set for diving.
Cave diving. Those two words tend to send shivers through a lot of people. They often ask “but what do you see under there” to which I believe I’ve found the most appropriate response, “it’s not about what I see under there, it’s about what I do”.
I set myself the goal - to dive where no other human had before.
I continued my training and education in diving, pushing myself and being pushed by some elite divers, until the trip of a lifetime came my way to a remote cave on the Roe plains in Western Australia.
Here five of us would be isolated, self sufficient, with only ourselves to depend upon should something go wrong. Loaded with a side mount rebreather, multiple stage cylinders, & an underwater scooter, I came a huge step closer to my goal, which has only fuel the fire inside me.
During the journey of cave diving, especially after my personal achievements of the last trip, I finally believe in myself as a diver. After a life time of never being talented enough, or fast enough, or having the skills for what I was trying to participate in, I can say to myself, that I am good enough. Cave diving can an emotional battle with yourself. It requires you to discipline your emotions and use rational thinking and to not react on emotion. A skill I have brought to the surface with me.
MY ADVENTURE ESSENTIALS ARE
Good dive friends.
I WANT TO GIFT YOU THIS PIECE OF ADVICE
Without a sense of adventure, driven by curiosity about mother nature, there would be no diving. Be part of the adventure, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, be part of the world in its natural beauty.